I finished my masters in Optics(5 years bachelors+masters together) recently. In the course I had to study subjects like Classical mechanics, Statistical Mechanics,Electrodynamics, Quantum physics and advanced mathematical courses during the first 2 years of the syllabus, just after schooling. These subjects are usually taught in Masters. I even undertaken 2 projects, only to get exposed myself that my ability to do problems are hardly improved during the course it was not how the course was designed. At the end of everything I truly feel that my fundamentals in both physics and mathematics are extremely poor.

It is essential that I improve my maths, I even feel like it is more of my area of interest rather than physics, so I was thinking of switching my field by taking a bachelors degree in pure mathematics(not permissible to directly to get admitted to Master’s in maths after Master’s in Optics in my country), via distant education as regular classes are possible for me. But mostly I am advised not to do it as I was told doing bachelors degree after my Masters will not be considered in a good way by the admission committee.

The things that I am particularly concerned are:

  1. By the time I finish my Master’s in Mathematics I’ll be 32 and without any prior project experience in the field, so will that adversely affect my chances of getting into a funded PhD program ?
  2. As I am doing or planning to do maths degree as distant education, will it affect getting into a funded PhD program ?
  3. If I could only do my bachelor’s and for some reason I could not do master’s, how will it affect if I try to apply for a PhD program in mathematics or in theoretical physics ?

See it is better to work in theoretical physics with whatever knowledge I have than being stuck by doing mathematics bachelors or masters degree in Mathematics. So that's what I am seriously concerned about as I really don't want to meet a dead end by trying to switch my field.

Or If I am going ahead with this plan, is there any way I can improve my chances of getting into a funded doctoral program in Europe, like taking foreign language or GRE subject ?

Note: I have attached a copy of the email I have sent enquiring my problem to one of my senior. I am truly sorry, Its bit long but I couldn't make it any shorter, atleast reading 1,2 paragraphs would give an idea about what I am confused about.


  • Hi! While I'm only a PhD student and so can't give a full-view answer, I think it is important to note a few things. 1) I read the email you sent and to me it is far too long. Your questions boil down to those you asked here (the rest about your background you could discuss in person). Other parts seem wholly unnecessary and aren't really related to what you would like to know. 2) In my experience (europe) it is uncommon but not impossible to get 2 bachelors degrees in different subjects. Whether there is funding available depends on the institution - some countries only have central Nov 20, 2019 at 12:32
  • 1
    - funding for first-time bachelors students. Ok, so onto the questions. 1) Age should not be a factor in determining whether you can get a PhD spot. I know plenty of 'older' PhD students 2) This really depends on the insitution you get the degree from. Jumping into a masters from a reputable university without having the basic maths concepts seems like a difficult ask to me though. In general, PhD funding is in some sense competitive, and so (even though it arguably shouldn't be) the place where you obtain your masters is a factor in determining your strength as a candidate Nov 20, 2019 at 12:35
  • -3) In Europe it is commonplace to require a masters degree before pursuing a PhD. Other countries vary (e.g. in the US the PhD programme is longer because it essentially also includes 2 years for a masters integrated with it). Foreign language and GRE scores are nice to have, but my advice would be that if you are serious about maths and decide to take on the degree to concentrate solely on it and learning the basics. There is time after that to sort out applications etc Nov 20, 2019 at 12:38
  • @TheMathsGeek My first regular masters was from a pretty ok university from people used to go to europe frequently for phd. But the problems are specific to my course. Since it is specialized in Optics I have restrictions to get admitted to mathematics degree in my country, except as distant education.
    – Sooraj S
    Nov 20, 2019 at 12:54
  • @TheMathsGeek Regrading Point 1) Are you saying that there is no harm n doing second bachelors in mathematics after master in Optics ?. What if it is as a distant education, how much value it has ?
    – Sooraj S
    Nov 20, 2019 at 22:28


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .